The Badge of Self Care – Why Self Care is Important

I, like many other leaders I know, would leave work to run home to…work more.  I would get home, handle a few items around the house and then open my laptop or get on my desktop to get back to playing catch up at work.  Most of my day was spent in meetings, so my nights were spent handling the to-do lists created from the meetings.  In addition, I would be quick to reply to late night emails and even quicker to send them.  The goal was always for the sake of the team, the organization, continuous forward movement, “results”; however, there was another “result” I found myself winning at with great accuracy.  The result of moving myself farther away from healthy boundaries, meaningful relationships, social outings, vacations, and real, true rest.

I would often hear myself saying, “I rarely take vacation”.  Colleagues and employees would ask me, “when or where are you going on vacation” and my honorable reply would be that I rarely take vacation, or I just couldn’t find the time given the company schedule.  I write that it was an honorable reply because my thought as a leader was, I am here, as a leader I am available – even though I knew I was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted!  I would rationalize and tell myself as a leader the exhaustion was something I would just have to push through.  The exhaustion often caused me to be more stressed, not handle situations in my normal manner, and took some of the zest out of my overall joy in leading.  Nevertheless, as a leader, the right thing to do was bare it for the sake of the company, right?

Seven years ago, this thought hit me one day when I was in transition - you are wearing your lack of taking vacation and rest as a badge of honor, but truly it is a mark of your lack of understanding of the need for rest and balance for you to be better for your team, your family, your friends, and more importantly – for you.  I realized I was wearing this statement of not taking care of myself as an honorable badge which was actually a dishonor to myself, my health, my family, and my team!  Why a dishonor?  It was a failure to respect the need for self-care.  In taking care of myself, I could more effectively take care of others – I could love my neighbor as myself.  However, in my negligence, I was forfeiting the care I needed to ensure I could care for everyone in my sphere that needed me.  Most importantly, I look back and realize how much I did not take proper care of myself in being a caring workaholic and a sincere martyr of the authentic kind. 😊 I did not realize it then, but I was modeling behavior that I asked others not to partake in as I was quick to ensure my team took vacation and days off.  I should have been demonstrating that I could enjoy the sunshine, relax, and enjoy a hobby of my choice – the stuff that makes life interesting and fun.

Enjoying your work or call to leadership is great.  Enjoying your work, your family, friends, and yourself is even greater!  High performers and wonderful leaders are intentional in scheduling time for rest and making time for balance.  Although I’ve often picked up the old badge in various seasons, I am much more intentional about the new badge that demonstrates I value my team and I value my life that should not be ultimately defined by my work, but by my quality of life.

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